Europe’s top court upholds seal product ban

“We view this as a minor setback,” says ITK president Mary Simon


Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and the Fur Institute of Canada, the lead organizations in an international group of 16 fighting the European Union’s ban on seal products, aren’t giving up.

ITK president Mary Simon said ITK and the other plaintiffs plan to appeal the EU court decision of Oct. 25, which reinstated the ban.

The group will continue to fight the ban and “use all the avenues open to us – legal, political, public opinion – to expose the fundamental injustice of punishing Inuit for pursuing our way of life,” Simon said in an Oct. 29 press release.

“I am disappointed and angered that the suspension of the ban has been lifted, now that the judge has had ample time since Aug. 19 to properly consider this immoral legislation. We view this as a minor setback. We plan to appeal the ruling as we believe the original seal ban was based on colonial perceptions of our sealing practices, and this week’s ruling is a perfect illustration of this,” she said.

The court had suspended the ban in a judgment rendered on Aug. 19, 2010.

So, this meant the ban took effect Aug. 20 with a temporary exemption for the plaintiffs.

Although the ban includes an exemption for seal products hunted traditionally by Inuit for subsistence, ITK has argued that the ban will nevertheless have an impact on Inuit.

Following this week’s judgment, European Commission says the ban will now apply “to all, fully and without restriction” in all 27 EU-member nations.

Simon urged European citizens to consider what the ban is doing to the market for Inuit sealskins.

“I call on them to educate themselves on why the seal hunt is in fact legal, humane and sustainable, and in many cases necessary to maintain marine ecosystem balance. I call on Canadians to do the same,” she said in the press release.

At the same time, Simon slammed European leaders, saying that the “majority of European parliamentarians continue to be blinded by a combination of old, discredited colonialist attitudes and a cynical disinformation campaign from animal rights activists.”

In his decision, Judge Marc Jaeger rejected the plaintiffs’ argument that the ban would cause financial damage in Inuit communities and up the risk of youth suicide.

The ruling said “the applicants are simply making mere general and abstract assertions,” without providing enough convincing details.

“The plaintiffs presented no concrete indication that would justify their fears in this regard,” Jaeger wrote in his Oct. 25 decision.

Canada still plans to go to the World Trade Organization, saying that the ban, which will affect about $5.6 million of Canadian business, is based on false information and violates the EU’s trade obligations.

“We hope to get resolution through that medium… because we feel that the EU is in violation of international trade laws,” Canadian Fisheries Minister Gail Shea said, adding that Canada plans to seek out other non-EU markets— like China— for seal products.

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